Dubai Catholic church raises more than Dh2 million for low-wage cancer patients

Pledge made to continue St Mary’s Catholic Church charity drive every year

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The St Mary’s Catholic Church has joined forces with government organisations, hospitals and medical establishments to ensure more than 35 low-income cancer patients in the UAE receive the treatment they require.

Dubai’s oldest church is working alongside hospitals to sponsor, waive or cut medical costs for some underprivileged cancer patients.

The drive over the past year has covered more than 60 per cent of the Dh3.8 million target required to support a total of 53 poor cancer patients by covering the cost of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and medication. It hopes to continue such funding every year.

The drive has reached 60 per cent of the target to date, with backing from state organisations, private companies and individual donors.

If you have cancer, you must be strong, you need courage
Priyani Jayaweera, Sri Lankan nanny

Susan Jose, a volunteer and member of the organising committee, was hopeful of securing all the funding required.

“The community of Dubai and the church has taken a pledge that we will support the needy year-on-year," she said.

“We will look after the treatment of 53 patients we have pledged to support.

“More than 60 per cent of our cost estimates for the patients have already been covered.

“The government of Dubai and companies have come forward to sponsor about 37 patients already.”

Dubai Hospital, Burjeel and the Aster group are among the organisations that will support the care of the low-wage earners.

Cancer patients supported by their families share their stories at Mercithon 2023 in Dubai. Photo: St Mary’s Catholic Church, Dubai

More than 14,000 people took part in Mercithon, a walk organised to raise awareness and funds for the patients at Dubai Creek Park on Sunday.

Doves were released and candles lit to signify hope for cancer patients who also participated.

The campaign has covered surgery costs for Priyani Jayaweera, 42, a Sri Lankan nanny, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She said she was grateful for the community support.

“If you have cancer, you must be strong,” said the Dubai resident, who required a double mastectomy and eight chemotherapy sessions.

"You need courage. I need to become cancer-free."

Many patients work as housemaids, nannies, cleaners, sales staff and secretaries, and are from countries including the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Lebanon, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Dimple Jivothama, a personal assistant for a trading company, is hopeful her treatment costs will soon be covered.

The 41 year old had a mastectomy in 2016 after she discovered a lump in her right breast.

She was in remission until 2021 after which the cancer spread to her skin, left breast and lungs.

Ms Jivothama is urging people not to ignore symptoms and get checked, because early detection could stop the spread of the disease.

“I had a terrible cough and wheezing for two months from November last year and was treating it with steam as I thought it was due to a change in weather,” she said

“But both my lungs collapsed, I was in ICU for a week and found out the cancer had spread to my lungs.

“We tend to not listen to symptoms. People need to keep a close watch on themselves and their health.

“I’m waiting to hear if the chemotherapy and treatment I need will be covered.

“It gives us a lot of hope that people are coming forward to help.”

Updated: February 22, 2023, 4:42 AM